Three skiiers, one ski lift, and no one to help: 'Frozen' chills
Adam Green is a firmly-established part of the LA horror scene at this point, and his film "Hatchet" has earned him a fairly solid fan base in the horror world. I like Adam a lot, and I want to like "Hatchet" more than I do. I like it in theory, but I just wasn't crazy about the actual execution of it. It's sort of like how I felt about Eli Roth's "Cabin Fever." By the time I saw it, I liked Eli a lot, but the film left me cold.
For me, "Frozen" is the moment when I get onboard. I think Green's new film is impressively directed, well-acted, and does its job both effeciently and effectively. It's another of this year's midnight movies at Sundance, and I would imagine this audience, after dealing with the weather at this year's festival, is going to feel an extra connection to the film as they watch it.
"Frozen" has been described as "'Open Water' on a ski lift," and that's certainly fair. As much as I liked the performance in "Open Water," though, I always thought the film was just okay. "Frozen" is much better as an actual movie. Green expertly accelerates the desperation over the course of the film, and he punctuates the pervasive dread at just the right moments, in just the right ways. This isn't anything like the reckless abandon of "Hatchet"... it's all about the slow burn that delivers on occasion with cruel precision
It's really just three characters in the film, with a handful of brief walk-ons in the first act. Dan Walker (Kevin Zegers) and Joe Lynch (Shawn Ashmore) are old friends, and now Dan has a girlfriend, Parker (Emma Bell), which screws up the whole dynamic on what has traditionally been an all-boys ski weekend. Lynch wants to be cool about it, and he gets along well enough with Parker in small doses. But things are still a little tense, and by the time they're ready to make their final run on a Sunday night, that tension has spilled over into open hostility.
Green's very careful with the way he strands them on a ski lift halfway up the mountain, making them the only people at the resort for a full week since the place is only open on weekends. It feels like exactly the sort of dumb luck that leads to many accidents, so we don't have to swallow a major contrivance just to be able to enjoy the film.
If the three big themes of conflict in drama are "man vs man," "man vs self," and "man vs nature," then Green hits all three of them with equal force here. If you've got an idea already about what you'd do if you were stuck in this situation, rest assured that Green has thought of it, and he'll get to it. By having his characters be so methodical, he is able to really ramp up the fear. It goes from bad to very bad to nuclear-strength-fucked, taking its time so when it gets there, you know... there's really no way out.
All three of the leads are very good. They sell the banter at the start, and they convincingly chart the slow loss of faith. It's a technically adept film, shot impressively by Will Barratt. Green also demonstrates a perfect-pitch sense of pace, never milking the idea for more than its worth, always moving towards a wrenching end.
"Frozen" will actually be in theater in early February, so you won't have long to wait if you want to check it out for yourself, and I certainly urge you to do so.
Just dress warm.
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